By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Early Action – the beginning of visible change.
So here we are in that process of change at the point where we start to do some action steps. Up till now, we have had someone or something that created a reason to consider the need for change. No catalyst and probably most people would never embark on the journey. So we were pre-contemplative. Then we started thinking about the problem, gathering information. We called that contemplation. At some point, people get into preparation, join groups, buy books seek out resources. Still, no change has occurred, not real lasting change anyway. But now it is time for the do or die part, – getting into action.
Stage of change four – Early Action.
Some authors only have five stages of change and they have only one stage for action. I am separating action here into early and late stages as we find that the things people do in the beginning of their recovery process is often different from what they do later on. I got this formulation from Ken Minkhoff and Christine Cline at Zia Partners. You might want to check out their website and the Change Agent Movement they have spawned. The difference between early and late action is easier to see when people have multiple problems, like substance abuse and depression, this is a condition we call co-occurring disorders or complex clients. For someone with depression and a drug problem and a weight loss problem, in the beginning, all they may be able to do is get dressed and go somewhere. For them, this may be early action. Later they will be able to do more.
Now on with our story, first the weight loss example and then examples of other possible changes we might want to make.
So remember my story. I discovered others though I was gaining weight even though I hadn’t noticed. I weighed myself and gathering information and decided I needed to lose weight, maybe even change to some healthier habits. I joined a gym and bought some exercise videos maybe even some getting healthy books. Now I am at the point of starting to do something. I am ready to start exercising and eating healthier.
So at the gym, I seek out a trainer or a fellow member he shows me how to use the equipment, the routines and the whole culture of healthy living. I like the hanging out and the talking about fitness, the exercises not so much but I do it anyway. Right now my goal is to lose that weight, get that old suit to button closed again and generally shut up my friends who say I am fat.
At first, I wander around the gym. I try out a machine or two. I check out the weights to see what I can lift. I talk with people who show me how to do things. It amazed me how friendly some people at the gym where and how much they were willing to help a newcomer. The same things happen at AA or other self-help groups, people trying to help each other. In gyms and recovery centers there are professionals also, trainers or therapists and counselors; they can be especially helpful.
So the workouts continue. The weight is coming off, a little anyway, and I am feeling better and better about myself. The scale still is not saying I have lost that much weight but I always suspected it of being out to get me. One thing I noticed was that even when I was not exercising at the gym, just wandering around, the whole time I was not eating. Even if I wasn’t losing weight I had stopped gaining.
If this were a substance abuse example the person would be going to AA meetings, getting a book and a sponsor. They might start to share at meetings. There is an old adage that a closed mouth does not get feed so you need to talk as well as listening. Now just like the guy at the gym, the person at AA might still be having thoughts of drinking, but they start to notice that while they are at meetings, they are not drinking. If they can make it from meeting to meeting without drinking the periods of sobriety start getting longer.
Each different recovery group, AA, overeaters anonymous, gamblers anonymous or weight watchers has their own culture. You need to find one that is comfortable for you. There are over 200 twelve-step groups now and hundreds more of peer and self-help groups. Some gyms program is about exercise and flexibility other groups are all about weight lifting and setting records. A group for cancer patients is not much help to an alcoholic unless they have cancer also. Find the group that is right for you.
Eventual I settle into a routine. I am doing the things I need to do to recover, but I am not there yet. I also am not sure I want to keep this up after I lose the weight. Here is where we start to hear the word maintenance and we also start to talk about relapse. The question becomes – is what I am currently doing enough or is there more. Many people quit drinking or take off the planned weight and then they are good with that. Others want a new healthy lifestyle. So what will it be for you?
So in my weight loss example, I have started an exercise routine, lost a few pounds, though the buttons on that suit are still tight. For a substance abuser, they have made it two or three days without their drug, maybe even three weeks. So now what? What will I do next? Next blog we can talk about how my weight loss or substance abuse recovery program may change as my action moves from a few times to a regular routine.
Other posts on this topic can be found at: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Early Action, Late Action, Maintenance, relapse, recovery, triggers, support system, more on support systems, Resiliency
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.